Saturday, August 29, 2015

We break from regular programming for special event!--plus up-top UPDATE

Saturday Monarch UPDATE:
 I just started a separate blog page to dedicate entirely to the Monarch project.  People visiting this blog from Monarch websites should visit THIS blog page instead of the one you're reading now.

It's a Thursday mini-UPDATE UPLIFT:   I just found out that Monarch Watch recognizes the Honeyvine as a legit milkweed, but that's not what they call it.  They call it Sand Vine for some inexplicable reason.

Friday mini-UPDATE, Another Day Made Edition: That makes two days in a row that got made, and what made my day today was something that happened on Twitter. Background: John Oliver pretty much made himself a meme with his new evangelical church of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.  It's been well circulating and recirculating ever since he announced its founding...and then my favorite Egypt expert and erstwhile celeb-activist, Mona Eltahawy, shared a video she liked on Twitter (and yeah, I Follow her)...but...the video was posted by Our Lady of Perpetual Astonishment.  And thus the Kismet converged:

Yup. My day has been made. :D  But this raises the next question: who is the perp? Her or me?

The usual amateur conservationist isn't typically thinking about this until later in the autumnal season, but I'm here to draw your attention that we need to start thinking about this endangered migratory species NOW...because they're about the business of hatching new youngsters right now, here in Enid, in fields that typically get their habitat decimated.

Well, my yard is a preserve for these creatures no matter what the City opines about wild growth pertinent to the less important "property value" because these creatures hold my yard in higher value than the City does, or might.  This video of this endangered species was taken just a few minutes ago:

The City likes to make a big deal out of monarchs in the fall, and only in one downtown park, but it'll bend over backwards to kill off everything their babies eat in the meantime...and they don't exclusively eat only the plant called "milkweed".  As you see here, they love raising families on Honeyvine.

I'll bet they like Butterfly Weed as well, as they're all in the same family of plants called "milkweed".  But just as the name "weed" suggests, the City considers these noxious and in need of control, if not outright elimination.  I step forward to say that, because these creatures are endangered, we should instead be cultivating these plants.  They're the reason why monarchs come to Enid at all, so far away from the Mississippi River Flyway.

It's a commonly held belief that the larvae are poisonous, therefore they have no predators just because the birds won't eat them.  This isn't true, due to the fact that other insects will eat them, and that's also why I'll put metal screening around as many vines as I can.  The main predator is the wasp, and because my pecan trees will host tent worms without the wasps, I cultivate wasps here, too.  They don't care what kind of caterpillar they eat, and they do eat tent worm caterpillars, army worms, and, unfortunately, also Monarch and Swallowtail caterpillars.

Sunday mini-UPDATE:
I was wrong about this Monarch mom being the first just because it's the first one I noticed.  Examining known Honeyvine patches north near the alleyway revealed nearly-decimated vine leaves as if munching had been taking place for a couple of weeks already.  Didn't see any larvae, though, so they're either hiding or the wasps already nailed 'em. Hoping against hope that the former is the case; will do much closer monitoring of that area from here on out.

And from here on out, this blog will celebrate the entire month of August as Monarch Mommy Month.
Yup, gonna hashtag that. #MonarchMommyMonth

The following article appeared in the local newspaper this Sunday, and I've highlighted the important paragraphs in orange while underlining in red the portions that I, a seasoned, experienced Monarch rancher, take issue with:

Concocting theories is what scientists are good at, but no single one of them can cover the territory covered by Monarchs and unless they do better in-depth observation, they're going to completely miss the things that I've observed in raising these critters--like the fact that they go on a breeding marathon just before migration, and that the newborn adult Monarchs follow their elders on that trip and actually learn the route by being taught.  Scientist should seriously consider this theory as well as the theory that they stay closely clustered throughout the winter cycle because they're still guarding as well as teaching the neophyte what to do over winter and when the entire lot should endeavor to return. It's likely that scientists aren't looking at a simple mysterious clustering behavior, but actually a Monarch school.

Note there at the center bottom where I've underlined the part that states that no butterfly lives to make the round trip.  I'm sure that their efforts to tag Monarchs have lead to that conclusion, which also tacitly implies that what's necessary is for the previous generation to pass knowledge down to the new generation, and the length of time as well as scope of distance endangers any chemical markers due to temporal degradation of the same.  Well, I'm here to tell you that a Monarch is smart enough to recognize individual people and make the distinction between humans and other animals...and they certainly know a bird when they see one. These are things I have observed that no scientist has even been in any position to observe, apparently.

The next photo shows how Monarch ranching works in the yard, and with NO milkweed--it's 100% honeyvine...and at this point I presume you've watched the video first, which illustrates Monarch maternity phase.  What comes next is converting the yard into a Monarch maternity ward:

As mentioned in the video, the Monarch lays the eggs FIRST. She'll come back a number of times over a few days still looking for good places to lay. When she's absent, I'll mark the honeyvine seedlings that I've examined and found eggs on them with rebar, hopefully before the vines get too big and as you can see here, some of them have already grown to a length that can be awkward to manipulate...and then in this picture, you'll also notice that I mowed around the honeyvine tendrils.

So far, these steps were covered: 1) mom lays the eggs 2) locations were marked by rebar 3) the area gets mowed, dodging the vines 3) rebar gets replaced by tomato cages, and when they're all tomato-caged, the maternity ward transitions into nursery phase.

In the nursery phase, the tomato cages get covered by window screen to ward off predators, particularly wasps, and in that regard, find metal--not nylon/Fiberglas--screening preferable because wasps will chew through it.  Wasps chew a lot of things rather powerfully, and that's why I keep them around to feed on the tent worms that may choose to homestead my pecans.  Monarchs are protected, wasps get to prey on other pests, and everybody's happy.

Maternity ward detail:

Tuesday UPDATE: I just now signed up for a University of Minnesota monarch larvae monitoring project HERE.  Here we go. Before I signed up, there was only one red square on their map, near Tulsa. Now Oklahoma's sporting two, and the other one's me.

When I filled in the various forms, one form was to indicate what type of milkweed was growing on the property, and none of the selections mentioned Honeyvine.  They did have an option called Other, so I clicked on that and now Honeyvine is part of their list of milkweeds.  High time somebody recognized that plant as one preferred by Monarchs.

Wednesday mini-UPDATE: I still need to view the video training productions at this point, but I went out and checked my vines, and noted egg laying activity in the field north of my monitoring district. 6 moms were busy out there, only one noted over here. All eggs and no larvae was seen at this point, either.  Pictures of milkweed proper that I've viewed online show gazillions of eggs laid on a single leaf, which differs from the egg laying behavior here. Each mom lays one egg on one leaf per honeyvine seedling, and if there is more than one egg, then more than one mom paid a visit to that plant.  I'll sometimes find 2 or three on a single seedling, but not often.  They lay eggs only on the lower leaves of each seedling, and they won't lay eggs on more mature vines in blossom--they'll just feed on the nectar of those. Observation continues.

The training videos are up on YouTube, so what the hey--I might as well share them on this blog too.  This is the first of a set of 11 videos--the introduction....

After I learned all this procedural stuff, I went out in the yard to try to take inventory and I tell you what--it's amazing out there. I figured I didn't need all the stuff they put into a reporting kit because I've already got the basics of what I need to do it, and I'm going to keep a video log of what I find for reference.  I got about 4 square meters examined and I lost track of which ones I already looked at. And all my rebar is deployed, as are all of my spare tomato cages.  At the last home show I picked up a bunch of  I CALLED OKIE gasline marker flags, but I know I don't have enough of those either. Gee.  Still, it was fun to do and I saw some progress in the form of 3 hatched caterpillars, itsy bitsy "1st instar" stage, and two in the process of hatching, which was fascinating to watch.  Yes, you need a magnifying glass to partake of that, and there's one in their kit, but it's an awkward hand-held job and what I've got is a magnifying inspection visor I wear on my head.  I prefer to have my hands free for doing other stuff, like holding the camcorder.  When I process what I've got, you can bet I'll post those marvels here.  But in terms of collecting data, I'm just going to have to rassle up my gasline markers so that I can strategically flag the area already covered and enumerated.  Watch this space.

I just posted to YouTube the dry run I did this afternoon just to try out what I learned in those training videos, and I'm posting it for all those skeptics out there who don't recognize the honeyvine as a legit resource for monarchs.  If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.  Here's the proof:

Thursday mini-UPDATE: Spent well over an hour attempting a plant-by-plant inventory and didn't get very far because there are a lot of 'em in the northwest corner.  But I did spy a caterpillar large enough that it showed its monarch stripes.  Uploading the vids now.

Well, Blogger is being a refusenik again and I got on G+ and called Google out on that bullshit. In the meantime, a battle of life-n-death happened this morning and I got it on video...and posted it to YouTube...which I prefer to avoid because of those infernal outrageous out of line copyright trolls. Anyway, here ya go:

October UPDATE: I'm going to have to remove the above video from YouTube because it misidentifies the robber fly as a dragonfly.  I will be posting a corrected video, but since I'm up to my eyeballs in alligators at the moment, it's a Manana Project at this point.  But it is gonna happen.

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